December 27, 2013
IN A FINAL FLOURISH, VLADIMIR MARTUS, THE SHTANDART’S COMMANDER, PICTURED AT RIGHT, IN A STRIPED SHIRT, TOOK US THROUGH AN AFTERNOON INTO THE WIND--A HIGHLY TECHNICAL UNDERTAKING.
For some time now, a growing number of Hermione’s artisans and woodworkers, eager to see Hermione under sail, clamored to be on board a “tall ship” while at sea.
Wishing to be part of Hermione’s nautical crew, they petitioned and received financial support for their educational endeavors from the Association Hermione-LaFayette, one of whose aims is to train future sailors and boatswains, or senior crewmembers. This is because there are not enough French sailors today with tall ships’ expertise.
An ideal opportunity came about this past autumn when the Russian war frigate Shtandart (above), set off on a short voyage from St. Malo, in Brittany, to La Rochelle in the Charente Maritime region of France. This vessel is a replica of Czar Peter the Great’s first great warship, which was originally launched in 1703. With construction beginning in 1994, the “new” Shtandart was completed in 1999, after five years of hard work, financed entirely via private donations. Since then, the Shtandart operates as a hands-on naval school for young sailors, as well as participates in many tall ship gatherings across Europe.
Earlier this autumn, a group of nine people came aboard the Shtandart in St. Malo–two iron forgers, four sail riggers, a yachtsman, a volunteer and even a captain, comprised of several nationalities: Swedish, Canadian and French. The sail rigging of the Shtandart is actually quite similar to that of the Hermione, although the Hermione is ½ the Russian’s size. Nevertheless, the sailing principles are identical.
In early fall, everyone waited for a bit calmer weather–winds at this time varied between 5 and 8 knots with gusts up to 42 knots!
While our sea legs (and stomachs) were put to the rough test after crossing the Raz de Sien, a stretch of water located between the Isle of Sein and the Pointe du Raz in Finistère in the Brittany region of France, we all welcomed reaching the Gulf of Gascony, on our way to La Rochelle, with cresting waves of only 12-to-16 feet high!
Despite difficult weather conditions, and seasickness for some of our group, overall the team performed well under inclement weather and fatiguing conditions on board an authentic 18th century war frigate.
But what images and memories we all have of this remarkable voyage!
The ease and rapid grace of these challenging course changes surprised us all and demonstrated the ingenious maneuverability of an 18th century frigate.